What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/20

VA: A single vote leads to a rare tie for control of the Virginia Legislature

The balance of power in Virginia’s Legislature turned on a single vote in a recount that flipped a seat in the House of Delegates from Republican to Democratic, leaving control of the lower chamber evenly split. The outcome ends 17 years of GOP control of the House and forces Republicans into a rare episode of power sharing with Democrats that will refashion the political landscape in Richmond.

CO: Colorado to debate net neutrality next year 

The Colorado Legislature will take up net neutrality in the session that begins in January, as some lawmakers try to shield the state from federal rules that give internet service providers more say in the speed allowed for some websites over others.

DC: Mayor mandates sexual harassment training for District of Columbia employees

Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, signed an order mandating that all 30,000 city employees in Washington, D.C., complete sexual harassment training by February 2018. Bowser’s measure also requires 1,500 supervisors to complete advanced training and modernizes guidelines.

AZ: Arizona teacher shortage worsens

Four months into the school year, nearly 2,000 teaching positions in Arizona remain vacant, and 866 teachers have quit since August or just never showed up. A survey of 172 districts and charter schools also found that more than 3,400 teaching positions that schools had hoped to fill this year are being staffed by individuals who do not meet standard teaching requirements.

MO: Tax credits for low-income housing dealt a blow by Missouri commission

A panel led by Republican Gov. Eric Greitens voted against using state money to match $140 million in federal low-income housing tax credits, dealing a blow to supporters who say the move will drive away jobs and reduce housing opportunities for poor people in Missouri.

RI: Overdose deaths in Rhode Island drop 9 percent

During the first eight months of 2017, there were 208 deaths in the state due to overdose, according to the director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. There were 227 deaths during the same period in 2016. Deaths from fentanyl, an opioid used as a pain medication, accounted for 59 percent of the overdoses.

IA: Limits on guns in child care centers are blocked by Iowa governor's staff

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds' staff blocked proposed state rules that would have required that guns kept in Iowa child care operations be locked away and kept separate from ammunition. The proposal also would have required that parents be notified if a gun is kept on the premises of a child care center, and barred loaded guns from being carried in vehicles used to transport children to child care centers.

HI: Hawaii governor’s budget would boost state’s spending by $85M

Democratic Gov. David Ige wants to increase Hawaii’s spending next year by $85.5 million to nearly $14.4 billion. The administration also proposed a separate construction budget of nearly $1.5 billion, more than half of which would go for transportation, including highways, airports and harbors.

UT: Utah approaches state debt limit

Utah government agencies are pushing closer to the limit on the amount of debt they can take on at one time under the state constitution, according to a year-end financial analysis by the state’s finance division. Utah now has $3.87 billion in various kinds of debt and long-term liabilities.

CA: California sues Trump administration to defend Obama gas rule

California’s lawsuit blasts federal regulators for suspending a rule that directs oil and gas producers to curb methane flaring on federal lands. In the lawsuit, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra argues the industry-wide practice contributes to harmful air pollution, needlessly wastes natural gas and accelerates the flow of heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere.

TX: Texas Education Agency faces mounting questions over canceled special contract

Now that the Texas Education Agency has terminated a controversial no-bid contract aimed at improving special education services, critics are questioning how a relatively unknown Georgia company got the job in the first place.

CT: Connecticut delays session for Medicare fix until January

Connecticut legislative leaders again delayed their plans to reverse cuts to the Medicare Savings Program, but pledged to restore all funds in early January. Despite the latest delay, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, a Democrat, said there is bipartisan resolve to reverse cuts to the popular social services program, which uses Medicaid funds to pay medical expenses that Medicare doesn’t cover.

AK: Instability in national health insurance policy puts Alaska ballot measures on hold

Alaska voters will not see a pair of questions on the 2018 general election ballot asking whether they want to cement major pieces of the federal Affordable Care Act into state law. One initiative would have created a state version of the federal mandate that insurers cover pre-existing conditions and cover dependent children up to 26 years old. The other initiative aimed to bolster the Medicaid health care program for low-income and disabled Alaskans by boosting payments to doctors and hospitals.

Population Declines Pet Passengers